Many people associate Scottish deer stalking with open hill, stalking deer during daylight after breakfast admiring breathtaking scenery. However, not all have access to open ground and for the rest of us is forestry stalking. The scenery is not as nice and deer cannot be seen from a mile away… but it is definitely more challenging. On very rare occasions deer can be watched for longer periods and more often they can only be seen briefly crossing tracks and rides. It gives very small widow of opportunity and average success rate is rather low.
This was early October and a nice cold morning. When I got to the forestry I heard a few stags roaring, but they kept to the sitka spruce thickets and I could not bump on to any, but they were roaring loudly not too far away. I could hear three different stags bellowing and decided to stalk as close as I could to the nearest one. It was still early and I got to 40-50m away from the stag, but still could not see him. Suddenly the wind changed and all went quiet… I thought this was all for that day and assumed they caught my scent and quietly moved away. I waited for a long time, but no deer were crossing the ride I was on.
I went back to the main track and when I was walking back to the car I spotted a calf on the side of the road. I could not move as it was not too far away and I was on the middle of the track with no cover. When the calf crossed the track I moved to the side and saw a hind crossing and then a nice stag came out of the forestry and stood on the track.
It was a nice stag and a bit unusual as well. His right antler was a nice size (for Scotland…) with regular 5-points, but his left antler was significantly smaller and there was a gap between the brow tine and crown. When the stag moved away following the hind, I quickly moved to the nearest ride, hid behind smallish tree and put my rifle on sticks hoping the trio would cross the ride giving me a chance. The first was the hind shortly followed by the stag. I had to roar to have him pause. The plan was good, my roar was not really good, but good enough and the stag paused broadside and I squeezed the trigger.
He rushed to the trees and disappeared. The calf also ran across the ride following the hind. I could not hear a thing, but the reaction was good. I was confident the stag dropped somewhere, hopefully not to far away. However, I could not find any blood and decided to walk between the trees scanning for the stag. I had been walking fir almost a quarter when I finally smelt him. Like a good dog I followed the scent and soon found the stag dead under the trees. He dropped 150m away from the place I shot him.
The stag was much bigger than I thought and I struggled to take him out to the clearing just to have more light to take a picture. I called a friend to help me out, but it still took us several hours to get it out the forestry…